Dragon Boat Festival: June 12
Tuen Ng Jit or Dragon Boat Festival, is a traditional holiday for Chinese all over the world. The day is a public holiday in China, Macau and Taiwan.
The Dragon Boat Festival is widely celebrated by Chinese communities all over Asia, it falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar and its roots are not sure and are found in different traditions. One thing you can be sure of is to watch dragon boats races.
History of Dragon Boat Festival
The most famous and widely known origin of the Dragon Boat Festival is rooted in the story of Qu Yan suicide. He was a poet and statesman of the Chu Kingdom and killed himself in 278 BC, during the period of the Warring states. It was a period when seven major warlords in China were fighting each other as they were hungry for conquering more territories. They were: Qi, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, Qin and Ch, to whom Qu Yan belonged. Eventually the Qin State conquered all of the others and unified them under the Qin Empire in 221 BC.
Qu Yuan was of the royal house of the Chun State. He always served the Chun king with dedication and loyalty, until the king decided to join forces with the growing state of Qin. Qu Yuan opposed the alliance and was banished from the Chu State. Accused of treason he was sent into exile where he wrote most of his poetry, for which he is famous.
Years later, the allies became enemies and the Qin State took over the capital of the Chu State. Qu Yuan that was in the Chu State capital in fear and despair killed himself by drowning in the Milou River. This happened in the fifth day of the fifth month. People of the Chu State that loved him rowed boats to save him and only managed to retrieve his dead body eaten, so the origin of the dragon boats racing.
Another story is about Wu Zixu, who was also very close to the king of the State of Wu. Like Qu Yuan, he took side with the people of the state and advised the king against his ideas. King Fuchai did not like this and decided to have Wu Zixu killed by throwing him to a river, at the fifth day of the fifth month. He was then revered by the people as the god of the river, and the boat festival was held in his honor.
Other sources say that the Dragon Boat Festival originated in other holidays that ended up merging into the current Dragon Boat Festival.
Dragon Boat Festival Traditions, Customs and Activities
The most popular tradition of this day are the Dragon Boat Racings. Huge crowds of spectators line up in the banks of rivers to watch the races. The Dragon Boats have bright colors and measure as much as 100 feet. The heads are shaped like dragons and they end with tails. You can see as much as 80 rowers in the bigger boats, rowing to the sound of a drum that is positioned in the head of the boat. To enter in to the competition the Dragon Boat has to pass one ritual that symbolizes bringing him to life by painting red eyes on the head.
During the day everybody eats Zong Zi, sticky rice wrapped in corn leaves with fillings that can be eggs, fruits, beans, mushroom, meat or anything else. People also throw this rice to the waters as offering to the dragons and the river gods.
It is also a time to drink Xiong Huang Wine to prevent diseases for the rest of the year as Summer is beginning, children usually used perfumed bags around their necks also to prevent diseases and bring good health. In every house families hang pictures of Zhong Kui, who is said to be a guardian against evil spirits.